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Sunday, June 3, 2007

A Great Sailing Experience!

The following is a journal that was written by a student aboard our vessel when we traveled from the Chesapeake Bay into the Atlantic Ocean and back. Along the while we had a lot of fun and completed a handful of ASA Courses:

Ships Log: Round Trip from Kent Island to Chesapeake Light
ASA 106 Odyssey

RJ is a retired member of our military and has taken ASA 103, 104, 105, and 106 with Capt. Dave Renoll

July 7, 2007 – I arrived aboard Rising Tide at 0900. After stowing my gear for our voyage to Chesapeake Light located in the Atlantic Ocean off Norfolk, Va., Capt. Dave Renoll and I did a complete safety check of the vessel, inside and out including a trip up the mast to inspect the standing and running rigging. Then we were off to the grocery store to provision for the week. By 1300 we had cast off the dock lines and had set sail for our first anchorage up Mill Creek in Solomon’s Islands.

Our passage down the Eastern Bay to the Patuxant River was an uneventful beam reach to Cove Point, followed by a beat to Drum Point just outside of Solomon’s Islands. As darkness descended, we dropped sails and motored through the channel leading to Solomon’s Islands and Mill Creek. By 2130 we had our anchor set and were ready for our first dinner afloat. While Capt. Dave cleaned the galley, I plotted our course and programmed the way points for our destination on Saturday, Fishing Bay on the Piankatank River.

July 8 – Today we had a total lack of any wind, so we powered up the Yanmar and motored from Mill Creek to our second night’s anchorage. During this leg, I had the opportunity to take lots of bearings in order to check our progress along our rumb line course. As we powered south, we began to encounter more freighter and barge traffic. In addition to plotting our course and taking bears, I had the responsibility to prepare lunch while underway. The lack of wind made my first experience cooking while underway an easy task. Cheeseburgers never tasted better!

Once we cleared the Potomac’s mouth, we picked up a southeast wind, so we hoisted sail and sailed into the Piankatank River, which is located south of the Rappahannock. After passing the shoal inside the river, we decided to drop sail. As Capt. Dave went forward to handle the mainsail, his new St. Petersburg, Fl hat took a swim in the river. A quick MOB maneuver saved his hat from Father Neptune.

July 9 – After topping off the diesel and adding oil, we set our sights for Willoughby Bay just inside the James River off of Norfolk. We had a great starboard close reach down the Bay. Just south of Wolf Trap Light, we suddenly picked up a large pod of dolphins, which swam with us for almost an hour. As we turned toward the James River, we said goodbye to our friendly dolphins. After motoring through the channel leading into the James we turned into Willoughby Bay with the sun setting behind four US aircraft carriers in Norfolk Harbor.

July 10 – This is the big day! We finally sail into the Atlantic Ocean. But first things first! After a quick breakfast, we motored to the fuel dock and topped off our diesel. Then with a favorable wind, we turned the bow of Rising Tide toward the Atlantic. As we passed overtop the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel, numerous navel vessel overtook us as they set out to sea. Once we cleared Cape Henry, we set our course for Chesapeake Light itself. Rising Tide has finally found her true element as our bow cut through the three foot ocean-green wave crests. By 1330 we had reached our goal and passed east of the light. Reluctantly, we turned our back to the open ocean and set course for our anchorage up the Poquoson River south of the York River. By 2230 the hook was down, we had eaten a great dinner of grilled chicken breast and sweet corn, and finally climbed into our berths for a well-deserved sleep.

July 11 – Destination, St. Mary’s City. It seems that the wind is always in our favor! After raising the anchor, we hoisted the sails and had a super close reach up the Bay into the Potomac. During our passage south, we had met the Virginia square-rigged in the Piankatank River. Now as we passed the river, we espied her coming out of the river and heading up the Bay. During the day we had a miniature race between the two of us – not much of a race since the Virginia had so much more sail area, but we had the advantage of a much shallower draft. As we both entered the Potomac though, the Virginia quickly out sailed us. With the sun setting behind the tree line, the Virginia dropped her anchor inside the mouth of St. Mary’s River as we continued up the river to St. Mary’s City and the horse bend where we finally lowered our anchor for the night.

July 12 – Finally, with the wind astern, we had an opportunity to set our spinnaker. With great winds we hit speeds of 8 and 9 knots. In just a few hours we were entering the Choptank River. With a sudden wind shift and thunderstorms approaching from the west, we doused the spinnaker and motored to our final anchorage in Dunn Cove. With the anchor set, dinner cooked and eaten, the storms finally arrived. But we sat safe and sound with very little wind affecting our vessel.

July 13 – The final day. All good things most end. Once again, we had perfect wind for a beam reach up the Eastern Bay and into Prospect Bay. After only a few hours, we were once more in Kent Narrows approaching the drawbridge and Rising Tides home on O-Dock. Seven days, 402 nm, great wind, who would want to leave this behind? I go home with ASA certification for 105 (Coastal Navigation) and 106 (Advanced Coastal Cruising). This has been the experience of my life. Thank you Capt. Dave and R&R Charters and Sail School!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

True Wind vs Apparent Wind

True wind is very simple concept. On any windy day, stand outside and turn your face directly into the wind. This is the true direction of the wind and the true wind speed. A stationary anemometer and wind vane can easily determine this true direction and true speed.

Most of us have experience apparent wind when we rode our bikes as a child. When we tried to ride into the wind, we discovered that we had to work hard and use more energy. When we rode away from the wind, (i.e. in the same direction that the wind was blowing), we could ride faster and easier without working as hard. This is the basic concept of apparent wind.

When we are sailing, we are using the apparent wind. Anytime that the true wind is forward of the beam of our sailboat, the apparent wind speed will increase in speed and also move further forward of the beam. Anyone, who has studied physics in high school, will remember all those wonderful vector problems. Fortunately for us sailors, we do not need to apply vector theory in order to use the apparent wind to sail, although for those of you, who love to work math problems, you are more than well to review your high school physics and use vectors to calculate the apparent wind speed and apparent wind direction.

What we do need to remember, is that the increased wind speed and the change of direction of the apparent wind will effort how we trim our sails and what sail configuration we must use. For example, let’s assume that the true wind is blowing at 15 knots and we are sailing on a close reach. This true wind of 15 knots will actually feel more like 18 to 20 knots and will cause more heel and more weather helm. For a cruising sailor, this will cause the helmsman to work harder and to become fatigued much quicker. Also the ride will be much less comfort due to the heel. Therefore, the cruising sailor may find that it is necessary to reef the mainsail. By reefing and reducing the sail area, we can reduce the heel and the excessive weather helm.

So what happens to the wind aft of the beam of the vessel? The apparent wind will move further aft of the boat and will decrease in speed. Using our 15 knot wind from the previous paragraph, this will now be more like 10 – 12 knots and we will not need to reef and reduce our sail area. When my daughters were young children, we would often sail from Middle River to St. Michaels. Our favorite route was to sail south under the Bay Bridge and around Bloody Point and up the Eastern Bay. During the summer the winds often tends to come out of the southeast so we had a great close reach or beam reach down the Bay. As soon as we turned Bloody Point and headed up the Eastern Bay, my children always wanted to know what happened to the wind. It always seemed to die down. This was the apparent wind. Every sailor needs to understand this and be prepared to change the sail configuration as the vessel either heads up into the wind or falls off of the wind.

Here is a simple set of rules for apparent wind:

  • Wind abeam or forward of the beam will increase in speed and move further forward of the beam. Be prepared to trim sails and/or reef the sails.
  • Wind aft of the beam will decrease in speed and move further aft of the beam. Be prepared to ease the sails and shake out a reef in the sails.

More information is available in The Annapolis Book of Seamanship by John Rousmaniere.